It would be greedy to hope for a winner to match the exceptional Constitution Hill, who was successful 12 months ago, when eight runners line up for the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday, but this year’s renewal makes much more appeal from the punters’ point of view, with half the field defending unbeaten records over timber.
Henry de Bromhead’s Arctic Bresil – like Constitution Hill, a son of the stallion Blue Bresil – is a rare and intriguing runner from Ireland in this contest, having beaten 21 opponents with ease on his Rules debut at Cork last month, while Tahmuras, unbeaten in two starts over hurdles, attempts to extend Paul Nicholls’s strong run of form after Hermes Allen’s win in the Grade One Challow Hurdle last weekend.
Gary Moore’s string is also in rude health, however, and his gelding Authorised Speed (2.25) could be the answer to Saturday’s contest, at a track where the yard’s runners always demand respect.
The six-year-old was the first British-trained horse home when fifth in last season’s Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and the only hiccup in his two starts over hurdles this term was a bad mistake at the last flight on his second outing in December. He survived to finish nearly seven lengths clear of the runner-up, posting a strong time in the process, and is an attractive bet at around 2-1 to give Moore a fifth Grade One success at Sandown.
Sandown 1.15: The form of Gemirande’s win at Southwell in November was franked when the runner-up beat a decent field at Leicester last week and he is a worthy favourite to follow up.
Wincanton 1.30: The drop back to two-and-a-half miles could do the trick for Celebre D’Allen after a promising seasonal debut over three miles at Warwick.
Sandown 1.50: Grey Diamond should improve from his first start in 10 months at Cheltenham in November, when he was just over three lengths behind the winner, and recorded his only career win over fences over this track and trip.
Wincanton 2.05: Interne De Sivola still has plenty of scope for improvement over fences and a 10lb drop in the ratings since his latest start gives him every chance.
Sandown 3.00: Eighteen veterans between 11 and 13 years of age chase the biggest prize of the afternoon, with Saint Xavier and Lilly Pinchin, who is excellent value for her 3lb claim, a fair price at around 8-1 to follow up their win at Haydock in November.
Wincanton 3.15: Chianti Classico has been handed what looks like a generous opening mark and should extend his winning run to three.
Sandown 3.35: Iceo was not beaten far in Grade Two company on his final start last term and may also have been let in lightly for his handicap debut.